Rookie Mistakes: The family portrait

In the first twelve weeks of motherhood, life was a bit of a fog. I felt a bit of a state, and I was really struggling to feel like my normal old self whilst keeping my tiny human alive.

I don’t know what on earth possessed me to think it was a good idea, maybe it was the total FOMO of what everyone else seemed to be doing, but we booked in for a family photoshoot.

Whilst I’m not camera shy (especially not after a few glasses of sav blanc), the idea of standing in front of a proper photographer is daunting, even now. To say I wasn’t feeling my best, at 10 weeks postpartum is an understatement.
The hubby is also what you would call a camera-phobe. A handsome subject, don’t get me wrong, but when facing the lens he knows only to distort his face into an awkward looking grimace.

Yes, a professional photo shoot was exactly what we needed to capture this blossoming brand new family unit. After all, no amount of saying cheese into my Mums smartphone had managed to capture the magic shot, and believe me we’d tried.

So off we set, on an hours journey towards Royal Tonbridge Wells. Packed with a few outfit changes for baby Tigs, and a couple of different tops for us, not forgetting the normal anxieties for good measure – will there be somewhere to breastfeed the baby? What if she screams throughout? What if there is a poonami mid-shoot? But I’d blow dried my hair and even put on a bit of mascara so was feeling as good as I was ever going to.

We had seen some example work of this photographer, and I have to say it was enticing. Black and white shots of little tots in tutus and with tastefully positioned wooden furniture as props, fluffy throws and cute little hats. Yes, in my mind I could see the final images I wanted and they would be worth this hassle. As with so many of these scenarios the shoot was free and the only cost was in the images or prints you choose, so it was a can’t go wrong situation.

Now might be the time to say, if you are thinking of arranging a baby photo shoot, you might want to avoid the ten week stage. A ten week old is past that squishy newborn stage. A ten week old cannot sit up, and although is tantalisingly close, is not at that smiles that melt your heart stage.

The image I imagined (not me BTW)

So, the next hour was spent trying to badly recreate the beautiful images we had seen, of other people’s newborns or six month olds. There was the holding baby up in the air shot, the on Daddys topless shoulder shot, and the family portrait.

Throughout the session we were tense to say the least. The small shop-come-studio was claustrophobic and we all couldn’t wait for it to be over. And soon enough it was, so we set off to find a café with a baby changing room and a quiet corner to feed the baby.

Some 4 weeks later we returned for ‘the viewing’, with absolutely no pressure to buy from the to be fair, thoroughly decent bloke.

Yet we did feel under pressure to buy the photographs, because they were the best of an extremely bad bunch of self taken photos. They were nice. They were quite sweet, and although all I could see was tired eyes and a ‘I was pregnant ten weeks ago’ body, the pictures of us were, alright.

And so, we started to choose. A couple of Tigs, one with Daddy, and better get one with Mummy. And the family portrait, which looked like it belonged on the walls of a stately home, black and white with the two of us sat formally alongside each other with our heads turned to the camera (and a very grumpy looking baby).

It was a long and tiring process, and with a wriggly 14 week old baby who was looking for her next feed, we just wanted to get out (again). As the photographer started talking frames and sizes, we were getting increasingly confused and overwhelmed. I kept asking him to point out a size from the wall gallery to get an idea but he kept talking dimensions. We eventually settled on a family portrait framed, a smaller one framed for our parents, and a triple frame with the mum-dad-Tigs shots. He then offered to throw in the disc and the remaining shots as prints for an extra figure which by this point we would have agreed to anything.

The final balance was something to behold. Crikey, I didn’t expect it to be that much. But I was so tired, and sure that this is a rite of passage all parents go through, we signed on the line. Let’s just say the three of us could have gone on holiday for the cost of those pictures, but that’s okay, because they were, y’know, nice.

Nice they would have been, in a 4×6 frame, or even a 5×7 on the mantelpiece. Let’s just say that when the parcels arrived containing what looked like a snooker table it took me a moment to realise exactly what was being delivered.
The ‘small’ portrait for the parents might have been bearable on the wall, but we could hardly give them the larger than real life size head shots now could we?

And so, the Beckham-esque framed portrait did hang on a very discreet corner of our home for a few months, until it took its final resting place behind the wardrobe, where it remains to this day.

I know exactly the kind of family shots I love. Relaxed, natural, outdoors. I just wish I’d come to out of my new Mum haze to realise this before handing over enough cash to feed a small orphanage for a month.

It may have been the same photographer as my friend’s beautiful shots, the same studio, but our child was a different age and we are different people. I also found out later she only bought a handful of unframed 5×7 prints.

Ah well, we live and learn.

My advice to you?

  • Timing is everything with a photoshoot – go teeny newborn or 12 weeks onwards.
  • Shop around, I can’t tell you how many incredible baby pictures we’ve seen since then which beggar belief as to how cheap they were in comparison to our hefty bill.
  • If you can, don’t take the baby along when you’re doing the choosing bit.
  • Don’t buy the frames at the photographers – this was a massive proportion of our costly mistake, if we’d just bought the disc of images we’d have saved a fortune on framing.
  • Think about it. Will you really want these images on your lounge wall in five years time? Do you really need them all?
  • Remember, if you’re planning a bigger family you might want to wait until your family is complete to do the epic photoshoot.
  • Know what you like… In my head I had visions of tiny feet in converse trainers or a newborn curled up on a fluffy blanket, all Anne Geddes style, and we were never going to get that with the package we walked in to.
  • Your hormones are everywhere so maybe decide on a budget and number of pictures before you leave home and stick to it.

This post was originally posted as a guest post for Claire aka Life Love and Dirty Dishes for her Rookie Mistakes series. You can view it there here.

Rookie Mistakes
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14 thoughts on “Rookie Mistakes: The family portrait

  1. Natasha Reply

    Ahh the dreaded photo shoot. We’ve had 5 in his 3 short years and the only one that wasn’t stressful was the most recent one a few weeks ago. We had a new born shoot at 3 weeks that the photographer gave up on and we had to go back the following week and the Christmas shoot when he kept lobbing the fake presents all over the place. Precious memories indeed!

  2. Amanda Blackburn Reply

    Great photo!
    I’m married to a photographer and all his family are photographers so I’ve saved myself a fortune lol!
    Can be so costly and very stressful having your photo taken.
    #coolmumclub

    1. MMT Reply

      Thanks! Although that’s a stock photo btw, not me! 🙂

  3. Talya Reply

    lol I have never had a family portrait as such because I know it would be a totes nightmare – even an outdoors shoot where the little could go bananas was tough! #coolmumclub loving xoxo

  4. Mrs Morgan Plus 3 Reply

    Oh no how pants that it was so huge!! We had 1 with our first born and that was fab but we havent had another family one with all 3 children yet… We are trying to find the right time to get it done #coolmumclub xx

  5. Lucy At Home Reply

    This is almost exactly what happened to us! We went through and chose a load of photos that we liked, and then almost fell off our chairs when the cost was heading towards £1000! We promptly whittled down our choices, but it’s ridiculous how much they cost.

    When our 2nd was born, we just bought a CD of the images and had them printed online for a couple of pounds! #coolmumclub

  6. mumandstuff Reply

    we are just thinking about getting some family pictures done so whilst this was funny (sorry!!) it was also very useful. Ours are 1yo and 4yo and we’ll probably be going for something outdoors in our favourite park or woodland. I’ll try and resist the Beckham-esk stately gilt-edged frames! xx

  7. barriebismark Reply

    Photos are the worst. I stress so much every single time. Grrrr…but you have to do them. Can’t miss out!
    #coolmumclub

  8. Rainbows are too beautiful Reply

    We always end up buying loads at these things…. then have to take all the last lot down for the new ones! #coolmumclub

  9. Susie / S.H.I.T. Reply

    Aha, we’ve been there! We now have a very large canvas with our 2 daughers and of course our son isn’t in it as we hadn’t thought of him yet, so it obviously isn’t the ‘family’ shot that could go up on the wall. And we almost had to remortgage the house to buy it! I’ve got so many better candid ones we took ourselves on the self timer. You live and learn #coolmumclub

  10. Tooting Mama Reply

    We were given a voucher for a photoshoot but I hate these staged photos, much rather natural shots! #coolmumsclub

  11. Helena Reply

    Thank you for the tips. We’ve yet to buy a professional photograph of all four of us. #coolmumclub

  12. Mrs Mummy Harris Reply

    I feel you! i bought a package off of groupon where we got a canvas and 3 prints of the same shot for £15. bargain for just before christmas..
    I phoned them stating i was a blogger and would love to write about it and publish the final shots to be told – i do not have any right to publish the photos unless i paid £365 for the whole cd and copyright…. also told we cannot take any pphotos as we go along…even just of us not infront of the camera like no behind the scenes etc.
    so we picked our photo on the day and told that we can pay £50 to store photos online for a month for relatives to see. great well do that and photoshop their names out of the photo as my ex-BIL is fab at that… nope.. they did something that made it impossible and with £65 for the cheapest smallest photo it became very apparent that we were royally ripped off.
    and the photo we have on a canvas is sat in bubble wrap alongside the other pictures hubby has failed to hang up on our walls for 5 years!!!!
    what are we like in our post baby haze??? #coolmumclub

  13. Autumn's Mummy Reply

    There’s some great advice here 🙂 I also prefer more natural and relaxed shoots! #coolmumclub

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